It says something about the evolution of Canadian basketball that a player can make his NBA debut against his hometown Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Area and barely generate a ripple of attention.
Now, given that Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s first game with the New Orleans Pelicans back in October coincided with the Raptors’ ring ceremony and the news that his much-hyped rookie teammate Zion Williamson was going to be out for eight weeks after unexpectedly undergoing knee surgery didn’t help matters.
But things have changed. With so many Canadians in the league it is relatively easy for one of them to slip under the radar – unless they’re putting themselves all over the highlight packages, which increasingly is the story.
On Wednesday night, history of a kind was made when two Canadians – Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies – went off for 30 and 31 points respectively, which is believed to be the first time two players from Canada counted 30-point nights in the same game.
Not to be lost in the shuffle was Memphis Grizzlies rookie Brandon Clarke, scoring 18 points on perfect 7-of-7 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds in 21 minutes.
It seems like every night there’s another noteworthy performance by a Canadian – there are 16 of them in the league, the most ever from a non-US country. It’s all eye candy for Rowan Barrett, general manager for Canada’s men’s national team, whose son, RJ Barrett, is off to a stellar start as a rookie with the New York Knicks.
“It’s tremendous. It’s not just the performance and the numbers,” says Barrett.